Wheeling, dealing for coalition,
talks continue, no final decision
LAHORE: There was a flurry of activity in Lahore on Sunday as the PML-N met with the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) amid political parties’ ongoing efforts to form the next government.
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had hinted at the formation of a national unity government, along the lines of the Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance, before tasking his brother — former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif — with reaching out to other parties to begin consultations on government-formation.
On Friday night, PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif had met with PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and his son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, at the residence of caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi.
“The meeting was a kind of beginning of something big,” said a PPP source, indicating that they had discussed the results of the polls and the post-election situation. “It was a brief discussion but apparently it ended on a positive note.”
The meeting had come after a heated campaign trail that saw Bilawal taking frequent digs at Nawaz.
On Sunday, the two parties held a meeting at Bilawal House in Lahore, which was attended by Shehbaz, Bilawal and Zardari. PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb, Azam Nazeer Tarar, Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Ayaz Sadiq, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Tanveer, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Malik Ahmad Khan were also present.
A joint statement issued after the party said the two parties had agreed “in principle” on political cooperation.
“In the meeting, the overall situation of the country and political cooperation in the future were discussed in detail,” the statement said. It said the two parties had agreed on cooperating in order to bring political stability.
Party leaders also discussed the current prevailing situation in the country and various proposals in this regard. According to the statement, the PPP said it would place the PML-N’s proposals before its Central Executive Committee tomorrow (Monday).
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, who had warned Bilawal on the campaign trail to behave and be careful in the selection of words against Nawaz during public speeches, later posted on X that “the nation has spoken and given mandate to the same coalition that steered Pakistan out of bankruptcy in 2022 and put it on the path of economic stabilisation for completing the unfinished agenda.”
He said that the PML-N, PPP, MQM-P and their major partners had secured 113 seats in 2018 and 152 seats in 2024. “Despite consuming their political capital for saving Pakistan from default these parties have earned a bigger mandate in 2024. Democratic forces have won, fascist slogans lost.
“Time for healing the wounds of polarisation and developing a consensus on the future economic agenda and reforms has started,” he said.
Meeting with MQM-P
Earlier today, an MQM-P delegation led by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui arrived at Nawaz’s Jati Umra residence in Lahore where it was welcomed by the PML-N supremo.
The meeting was attended by Siddiqui, Dr Farooq Sattar, Kamran Tessori and Mustafa Kamal. From the PML-N, the Sharif brothers, Ishaq Dar, Maryam Nawaz, Rana Sanaullah, Sadiq and Rafique were in attendance.
After the meeting, the PML-N released a statement saying both sides had reached a “principle agreement” on working together. “We will work together in the interest of the country and public,” the PML-N statement said, adding that “basic points” had been agreed upon by the two parties.
The statement said that the two parties held an hour-long meeting during which the leaders discussed the overall political situation and also party-level contacts established so far.
Speaking to the media shortly after, the MQM-P convener said that the meeting with the PML-N did not include any discussions on the formation of the next government. Siddiqui said the elections had created a challenging situation and all parties must play their role in steering the country out of crisis.
“The stability of democracy is more important than anything else,” he said. He insisted that no discussion had taken place regarding the formation of the government.
Siddiqui said it was also not yet confirmed whether or not the MQM-P would get any share in the next government.
MQM paid a ‘goodwill visit’ to PML-N: Tarar
Talking to reporters in Lahore after the meeting, Tarar described the MQM-P visit as a “goodwill visit”.
He also mentioned plans for another round of talks with the MQM-P in a day or two. Tarar also said that it was common knowledge that no single political party possessed the mandate to form a government independently, underscoring the necessity of forming a “coalition government”.
“We aim to establish a strong alliance at the Centre, ensuring representation from all provinces to strengthen the Federation and Pakistan,” the PML-N leader told reporters.
Tarar also went on to say that the party had conducted extensive consultations and formed a legal team to address allegations of rigging in the Feb 8 polls.
He said that Rafique’s electoral defeat did not result in the party playing the victim card and approaching the courts. Criticising the PTI, Tarar accused it of habitually fabricating falsehoods to create an illusion of truth.
Independent candidates have emerged as the front-runners with winning 101 National Assembly seats in the General Election 2024 held on February 8.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) becomes the single largest party in the NA by grabbing 75 constituencies, according to the unofficial results of 264 out of 266 constituencies announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has secured 54 seats, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) 17 seats.
The Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Pakistan (JUI-P) has managed to win four, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) three, and the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) and Balochistan National Party (BNP) two seats each.
The Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan, Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party, Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), National Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z) have won one seat each.
Elections for an NA general seat (NA-8) was postponed due to the death of a candidate, while the results of NA-88 were not announced as re-polling would be conducted at 15 out of 25 polling stations on February 15.
In the Punjab Assembly, out of 297 seats, independents secured 138, PML-N 137, PPPP 10, PML eight, and IPP, PML-Z, and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan one each, while the election for PP-266 Rahim Yar Khan could not be conducted due to a candidate’s death.
With the results of one of the 130 Sindh Assembly seats withheld due to re-polling at certain polling stations, the PPPP leads the chart by winning 84 seats, followed by the MQM-P with 28, independent candidates 13, and the Grand Democratic Alliance and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan two each.
In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, independent candidates have grabbed 90 seats out of 112 constituencies whose results have been declared. The JUI-P secured seven seats, PML-N five, PPPP four, JI-P three, Pakistan Tehreeke-Insaf Parliamentarian two and Awami National Party one.
Elections in two out of total 115 KP Assembly constituencies have been postponed due to the death of candidates, while the result of one was withheld due to vandalism.
In the the Balochistan Assembly, the PPPP and the JUI-P lead the tally with 11 seats each, followed by PML-N with 10, Balochistan Awami Party four, National Party three, Awami National Party two, and Balochistan National Party, Balochistan National Party (Awami), Haq Do Tehreek Balochistan and JI-P one each. Independent candidates also grabbed six seats.